Young people with good family relationships are more likely to intervene when they witness bullying or other aggressive behaviour at school, and to step in if they see victims planning to retaliate, suggests new research.
The findings, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that kids who were already excluded or discriminated against by peers or teachers, were less likely to stand up for victims of bullying.
"There is a lot of research on bullying, but very little on the extent to which family factors affect whether bystanders will intervene if they see bullying," said study lead author Kelly Lynn Mulvey, Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University in the US.
Peer interventions are very effective at stopping bullying and preventing future aggressive behaviours. However, these interventions are fairly rare, according to Mulvey.
For the study, the team examined 450 sixth grade students and 446 ninth grade students who completed a survey aimed at collecting data on their relationships with family, peers and teachers.
They were also given six scenarios, each of which dealt with a specific aggressive act -- physical aggression, cyberbullying, social exclusion, or rejection by a group, intimate partner violence, social aggression, such as teasing or mean-spirited gossip, and exclusion by a former friend.
For each scenario, students were asked to rate the aggressive act on a six-point scale, from "really not OK" (1) to "really OK" (6). Students used the same scale to judge the acceptability of intervening.
The results showed that the stronger a student reported 'good family management,' or positive family relationships, the more likely a student was to deem aggressive behaviour and retaliation unacceptable, and the more likely they were to intervene in either case.
"The study tells us that both home and school factors are important for recognising bullying behaviour as inappropriate and taking steps to intervene. It highlights the value of positive school environments and good teachers, and the importance of family support, when it comes to addressing bullying," Mulvey noted.